Churchill flirted with financial ruin for most of his life because he partied so much

Churchill flirted with financial ruin for most of his life because he partied so much

Britain's most celebrated statesman spent much of his seemingly extravagant life on the edge of a financial cliff.

In "No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money," David Lough outlines how Winston Churchill flirted with severe debt while projecting an image of wealth, with a relentless appetite for cigars and champagne.

And yet, Churchill's private finances often threatened his political career, which spanned more than a half century and included two stints as prime minister.

To compensate for his financial woes, Churchill focused on becoming a prolific writer; however, his prose wasn't enough, Lough explains.

Therefore, Churchill took an emergency bank loan, which brought his borrowings to £30,000 in 1925, or $2.1 million at current exchange rates and adjusting for inflation (inflation multiples: UK£ x 50).

Feeling the financial pinch, "The British Bulldog" made several budget cuts to Chartwell, his country estate, in the summer of 1926.

"Nothing expensive is to be bought, by either of us, without talking it over," Churchill wrote to his wife Clementine, according to Lough.

"No more champagne is to be bought. Unless special directions are given only white or red wine, or whisky and soda will be offered at luncheon, or dinner. The Wine Book to be shown to me every week. No more port is to be opened without special instructions."

"Cigars must be reduced to four a day. None should be put on the table; but only produced out of my case."

Within a year, Churchill's cost-saving plan unraveled when he took his family on a lengthy cruise around the Mediterranean.

Casually, Churchill added a stop to Normandy to enjoy a wild pig-hunt with the duke of Westminister and the duke's new girlfriend Coco Chanel.

What's more, Churchill made a second detour to a nearby casino and gambled away another $24,350 (£350).

All the while, Churchill was still dodging bills from his architect Philip Tilden who was hired in 1923 to build an addition to the Chartwell estate.

The Churchill's wanted "larger bedrooms, new bathrooms and kitchen, a library, a large study, and a room for entertaining," according to Lough.

The modernization costs soared, resulting in a series of allegations, delayed payments and threats of legal action on both sides.

In 1927, the Chartwell estate and its furnishings are estimated to have cost at least $2,783,400 (£40,000).

Churchill went on to become prime minister in 1940 and helped craft a successful Allied strategy against the Nazi's during World War II. 

He was elected prime minister again in 1951, however, his financial woes shadowed the remainder of his life.